Wednesday, January 23, 2019

nineteen sixty two

The greatest movie year of all time is 1939 1962. That's right. I boldly scratched out the year that is invariably invoked as "the greatest" by critics, cinéastes, cinéphiles, film historians and movie buffs, no questions asked. For as long as I can remember, it's been a foregone conclusion - and not without good reason - that 1939 is the unchallenged champ.

Eighty years of accumulated praise have taken their toll, diminishing and overshadowing any potential rival. Look, I love the films of 1939, but never a team player, I disagreed with its starry status as long ago as 1992 when I wrote a 30th anniversary piece celebrating the headiness of 1962.

For years - nay, decades - I remained the lone voice promoting '62. Along the way, other critics - all great thinkers, naturally - have come to endorse the importance of that year. But more about them later. (See below.)

If neglected films are my forté - not to mention, the thrust of this site - then 1962 defines everything that is important to me in terms of movies. And so, I felt compelled to renew my spin after I read a series of short essays in The Washington Post titled "What Was the Best Year in Movie History?," written by seven staff writers. The years championed in the piece are 1946, 1955, 1974, 1982, 1999, 2007 and, of course, 1939.

Everyone has an opinion - and is entitled to it - but the best that the authors of these assorted squibs (all well-reasoned and -written, by the way) could do is come up with 20 or fewer titles for each year.

I can top that.

The movie year 1962 brims with dozens of noteworthy films. Both domestic and foreign. Some very good, some only okay, a lot of them great. Movies of breadth and variety. Made by an eclectic mix of filmmakers, both veterans and newcomers. Yes, the filmmakers.

And so, listed in no particular order and without commentary, here are the many directors of 1962 and their films that made the year so significant. (And please note that all the foreign-language films distributed in the U.S. in 1962 were most likely released in their native countries in prior years.)

David Lean: "Lawrence of Arabia"

Jacques Demy: "Lola"

Alain Resnais: "Last Year at Marienbad"

Three by John Frankenheimer: "The Manchurian Candidate," "Birdman of Alcatraz" and "All Fall Down"

Three by Delbert Mann: "The Outsider," "Lover Come Back" and "That Touch of Mink"

John Cassavetes: "Too Late Blues"

Sidney Gilliat: "Only Two Can Play"

John Ford: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"

Two by Frank Tashlin:"Bachelor Flat" and "It's Only Money"

Guy Green: "Light in the Piazza"

Pietro Germi: "Divorce - Italian Style"/"Divorzio all'italiana"

Two by Sidney Lumet: "A View from the Bridge" and "Long Day's Journey into Night"

Two by Vincente Minnelli: "Two Weeks in Another Town" and "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"

Two by Edward Dmytryk: "Walk on the Wild Side" and "The Reluctant Saint"

Otto Preminger: "Advise and Consent"

Jacques Rivette: "Paris Belongs to Us"/"Paris nous appartient"

Roger Corman: "Tales of Terror"

Stanley Kubrick: "Lolita"

John Guillermin: "Waltz of the Toreadors"

Delmer Daves: "Rome Adventure"

Leo McCarey: "Satan Never Sleeps"

Two by Sidney J. Furie: "Night of Passion" and "Wonderful to Be Young"

Andrei Tarkovsky: "The Violin and the Roller"/"Katok i skripka"

Richard Brooks: "Sweet Bird of Youth"

Orson Welles: "Mr. Arkadin"

Two by Henri Verneuil: "Maxime" and "The Most Wanted Man in the World"/"L'ennemi public n° 1"

Two by Tony Richardson: "A Taste of Honey" and "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Jack Clayton: "The Innocents"

Michael Cacoyannis: "Electra"/"Ilektra"

Peter Ustinov: "Billy Budd"

Agnes Varda: "Cleo from 5 to 7"/"Cléo de 5 à 7"

Two by Blake Edwards: "Experiment in Terror" and "Days of Wine and Roses"

Freddie Francis: "Two and Two Make Six"

Bryan Forbes: "Whistle Down the Wind"

Serge Bourguignon: "Sundays and Cybele"/"Les dimanches de Ville d'Avray"

Mervyn LeRoy: "Gypsy"

Morton DaCosta: "The Music Man"

Luis Buñuel: "Viridiana" 

Michael Powell: "Peeping Tom"

Andre Cayette: "Tomorrow Is My Turn"/"Le passage du Rhin"

Two by Philip Leacock: "13 West Street" and "The War Lover"

Two by Michelangelo Antonioni: "Eclipse"/"L'Eclisse" and "Il Grido"

Sam Peckinpah: "Ride the High Country"

Inoshiro Honda: "Mothra"/"Mosura"

José Ferrer: "State Fair"

Two by J. Lee Thompson: "Cape Fear" and "Taras Bulba"

Arthur Penn: "The Miracle Worker"

Lewis Gilbert: "Damn the Defiant!" 

Martin Ritt: "Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man"

Michael Gordon: "Boys' Night Out"

David Miller: "Lonely Are the Brave"

Don Siegel: "Hell Is for Heroes"

William Castle: "Zotz"

Two by Daniel Mann: "Five Finger Exercise" and "Who's Got The Action?"

Samuel Fuller:
"Merrill's Marauders" 

Richard Quine: "The Notorious Landlady"

Howard Hawks: "Hatari!"

George Seaton: "The Counterfeit Traitor"

Jules Dassin: "Phaedra"

Two by Jack Cardiff: "My Geisha" and "The Lion"

Henry Koster: "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation"

Frank Perry: "David and Lisa"

Two by Robert Mulligan: "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Spiral Road"

David Swift: "The Interns"

Phil Karlson: "Kid Galahad"

Basil Dearden: "Victim"

Richard Fleischer: "Barabbas"

George Roy Hill: "Period of Adjustment"

Lewis Milestone: "Mutiny on the Bounty"

Robert Wise: "Two for the Seesaw"

Guy Hamilton: "The Best of Enemies"

Three by Ingmar Bergman: "Through a Glass Darkly"/"Såsom i en spegel" - "Night Is My Future"/"Musik i mörker" - "The Devil's Wanton"/"Fängelse"

Louis Malle: "A Very Private Affair"/"Vie privée"

Peter Sellers: "I Like Money"

Three by François Truffaut: "Jules and Jim"/"Jules et Jim" - "Love at Twenty"/"L'amour à vingt ans" - "Shoot the Piano Player"/"Tirez sur le pianiste"

Charles Walters: "Billy Rose's Jumbo"

John Huston: "Freud"

George Pollock: "Murder She Said"

Irvin Kershner: "A Face in the Rain"

Jack Garfein: "something wild"

Gordon Douglas: "Follow That Dream"

Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau: "The Sky Above - The Mud Below"/"Le ciel et la boue"

Shirley Clarke: "The Connection"

Albert Lamorisse: "Stowaway in the Sky"/"Le voyage en ballon"

Robert Aldrich: "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"

Gene Kelly: "Gigot"

Ralph Nelson: "Requiem for a Heavyweight"

Hark Harvey: "Carnival of Souls"

Two by Mauro Bolognini: "Bell'Antonio"/"Il bell'Antonio" and "LaViaccia"

Daniel Petrie: "The Main Attraction"

Akira Kurosawa: "Yojimbo"/"Yôjinbô"

George Marshall: "The Happy Thieves"

Federico Fellini: "The Swindle"/"Il Bidone"

Henry Hawthaway, Ford and Marshall: "How the West Was Won"

Ken Annakin, Andrew Morton and Barnhard Wicki: "The Longest Day"

Luchino Visconti, Mario Monicelli, Vittorio DeSica and Fellini: "Boccaccio '70"

And George Cukor: "The Chapman Report"
Notes in Passing: The movie year 1962 has been celebrated by several notable critics. Stephen Farber wrote a wonderful essay, "1962: When the Silver Screen Never Looked So Golden," for The New York Times on Sunday, September 15, 2002.

Meanwhile, the Times' A.O. Scott's wrote a report on October 16, 2009, covering a 12-title event at  Brooklyn's Academy of Music (BAM), titled "BAMcinématek 1962: New York Film Critics Circle." This event was an attempt to correct a decades-old situation: A city-wide strike towards the end of 1962 halted newspaper production, which meant no newspaper Ten Best lists and no coverage of the New York Film Critics Awards.

And in his letters column on August 16, 2012, San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Mick LaSalle noted that "the top ten of 1962 has six classics - 'Lawrence of Arabia,' 'Dr. No,' 'The Longest Day,' 'The Music Man,' 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Gypsy.'" One of Mick's picks, "Dr. No," a 1962 release in Great Britain, opened in America in May of the following year, 1963.

Finally, Turner Classic Movies set aside its  programming on September 21, 2012 for a mini-tribute to '62 that kicked off with "Sweet Bird of Youth," followed by "Gypsy," "The Manchurian Candidate," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Jules et Jim" and "Lolita." 
Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

(from top) 

~Image from Columbia's crown jewel, "Lawrence of Arabia"
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1962©

~John Frankenheimer (right) conferring with Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury on the set of "The Manchurian Candidate"
~photography: United Artists 1962© 

 ~Otto Preminger (left) on the set of "Advise and Consent" with Don Murray, Charles Laughton and Walter Pidgeon
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1962©

 ~Tony Richardson (right) directing Rita Tushingham and Paul Danquah in "A Taste of Honey"
~photography: Woodfall/Continental 1962©

~Stanely Kubrick (center) on the set of "Lolita" with James Mason and Sue Lyon
~photography: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1962©

~Morton DaCosta (center) with Meredith Willson (left) and Robert Preston on the set of "The Music Man"
~photography: Warner Bros. 1962© 

~David Lean (left) directing Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia" 
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1962©

~Richard Quine (center) observing Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak in a scene for "The Notorious Landlady"
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1962©

 ~François Truffaut and Jeanne Moreau on the set of "Jules et Jim"
~photography: Janus Films 1962©

 ~Robert Aldrich directing Joan Crawford (center) and Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"
~photography:Warner Bros. 1962©

~George Cukor (right) directing Jane Fonda and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in "The Chapman Report"
~photography: Warner Bros. 1962©

~Mervyn LeRoy with Natalie Wood on the set of "Gypsy"
~photography: Warner Bros. 1962©

~Image of Paul Newman and Geraldine Page in "Sweet Bird of Youth"
~photography: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1962©


Alex said...

That's a very impressive and enlightening list! I've always been a big fan of 1937 myself, but 1962 was a good one, I can see.

Tina Laney said...

Great column! I recently watched Bryan Forbes' "The L-Shaped Room" on Turner. That was a 1962 British film but it didn't open here until a year later - in '63. One of my favorites. I remember seeing it the first time around.

tom said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

James L. said...

I sense that you might be “listed out,” so to speak. But had to say that I am impressed with the breadth of the films here. Wow! It may have taken more than 50 years, but that fine film year is finally getting its due.

Sheila said...

You have showed great perseverance behind the blog. It's been enriched since the beginning. I love to share to with my friends. Carry on.

gregg r. said...

Fellini's The Swindle (Il Bidone) originally came out in 1955.

joe baltake said...

Gregg- True, but it wasn't released in the US until 1962. I note that in preamble to the list. As you probably know, foreign titles tend to arrive here a bit late, as evidenced by Alberto Lattuada's "Mafioso," a film made and released in Italy in 1962 but one which didn't arrive here until 2006. The Fellini you mention was just such a belated release-J

Glenn said...

great presentation as usual, Joe -- right this moment I'm showing "The 400 Blows" to my film history class; we also looked at clips from "Breathless," "Jules and Jim," "My Life to Live," "Wages of Fear," "Mr. Hulot's Holiday," Cocteau's "Beauty & the Beast."

Jaime said...

Awesome year!

McBride said...

Re Luis Buñuel's "The Exterminating Angel," IMDb lists it as a 1962 release but you didn't include it in your list.

joe baltake said...

McBride- You're right. IMDb lists "The Exterminating Angel" parenthetically as a 1962 release, but if you look closely, under the heading "Release Date," you'll see that it actually opened in America on 21 August 1967.

Mike said...

That "release dates" feature on IMDb is very handy, but in general, I find IMDb to be factually unreliable.

Steve said...

Great list, and inspires me to find some I haven’t seen.

Brian D. said...

Joe! IMDb says that Luis Buñuel's "The Exterminating Angel" was a 1962 release, but it's not represented on your list. Still, phenomenal year!

joe baltake said...

Brian! You really had me on "The Exterminating Angel." Had to double-check that one. Hard to believe that it took five years for that Buñuel to make it here. Jeez.

Jean-Pierre said...

That's a mighty impressive list of movies. Even if 1962 didn';t see the release of "Dr. No", that movie heralded arguably the most popular film series ever.

Barry Cohen said...

Bergman - Winter Light
Tarkovsky - Ivan's Childhood
Polanski - Knife in the Water
Risi - Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life)
Zurlini - Family Diary
Welles - The Trial
Loy - Four Days of Naples

IMDb says they're all 1962 releases.

Thomas said...

About the film's that Barry Cohen listed, "Winter Light," "Knife in the Water," "The Easy Life," "Family Diary," "The Trial" and "Four Days of Naples" were all released in the states in 1963. I can't comment on when "Ivan's Childhood" opened here.

joe baltake said...

Thomas: You can't find "Ivan's Childhood" because it opened here as "My Name Is Ivan." It's release date in America was 27 June 1963.

Barry, when doing research, please note that, for each title, there's a "Release Date" subhead that you can click on. It provides the dates and places where each film opened. Case in point: the aforementioned "My Name Is Ivan." Although parenthetically listed as 1962, it opened in June of '63 in this country.

BTW, I noted at the top of my essay that all the titles listed opened in the US in '62.

sherry said...

I heartily agree with Mike; IMDb can be often unreliable for film facts.

joe baltake said...

Mike & Sherry: That's why I also relied on the 1962 edition of John Willis' "Screen World" (an invaluable annual) for release dates.

Bruce W. said...

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Milt said...

great points altogether, you just gained a new reader.

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Davis said...

Much informative and useful article… I like it personally…

jim said...

The article has definitely peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new data.

Kent said...

One word, Joe: Wow!

mike schlesinger said...

I'm still in the 1939 camp, but for me a very close second is 1933. Warners' output in particular is full of classics. I'd also put 1941, 1959 and 1967, among others, ahead of 1962.

joe baltake said...

Solid choices, Mike, but for me, nothing tops '62. -J

paul h. said...

Good year for movies. Now do something on 1994, while omitting "Forrest Gump" and I will be very happy

joe baltake said...

Actually, Paul, I would love to see what Frankenheimer would have done with "Forrest Gump"!

Terri G said...

you've convinced me!

k.o. said...

Joe! You are not going to believe! I saw Cleo from 5 to 7, Lola AND Advise and Consent just last week! I'm going to look back on your list because I saw "Anatomy of a Murder" last week as well which I think was 62 and did not catch it on there. What a year. Ah well, 2019 has Aquaman. k.o.

joe baltake said...

k.o.- “Anatomy of a Murder” was released in 1959. Another great Preminger. -J

Daryl Chin said...

I remember the numerous articles which accompanied the BAM survey of 1962: not just A.O. Scott in the New York Times, but also J. Hoberman in The Village Voice, and Armond White, Molly Haskell, Godfrey Cheshire, and Amy Taubin weighed in (though i forget which publications). One thing i remember was that they had a mock vote of the New York Film Critics Circle, where then current members voted on their choices for 1962; i remember that Hoberman's choice for Best Actress was Jeanne Moreau for JULES AND JIM and Best Supporting Actress was Claire Bloom for THE CHAPMAN REPORT. (Amazing to me that in terms of voting, the New York Film Critics Circle would only consider performers in English-language movies, i.e., American or British; it wasn't a rule, but very few people ever tried to go beyond that stricture.) It should be noted that when the New York Film Festival got started, many critics questioned whether it was needed, because there was such a robust distribution system for foreign films. Films such as JULES AND JIM and Godard's MY LIFE TO LIVE were released in the US within months of their release in France. And so 1962 is an example of that: though IL GRIDO had its belated release in 1962, THE ECLIPSE was released within months of its appearance in Italy and France, because Antonioni was a (relatively) hot commodity on the art house circuit. But 1939 is always considered Hollywood's greatest year (you'll notice that when 1939 is mentioned, nobody ever mentions possibly the greatest movie made in 1939, Jean Renoir's RULES OF THE GAME), but 1962 is an example of how movies were changing and becoming far more international. (Otto Preminger was an example: his 1962 release was ADVISE AND CONSENT, since its subject was the US Senate, it had an entirely Anglo-American cast, but his next film, the 1963 THE CARDINAL, had an "international" cast that included Romy Schneider and Raf Vallone.)

joe baltake said...

Daryl! Marvelous background information - as usual. Many thanks. -J

Brennan said...

You are absolutely right about 1962. And the irony is that it was the year that accelerated the demolition of the major movie palaces in every city because business had dropped.

william said...

It's remarkable how grown up these movies were. Or, to put it slightly differently, it's clear that these movies were being made for grown-ups, and that this approach was the norm, not the exception. That seems like the single biggest difference between then and now. This was a very enjoyable list.

Near-Genius Nephew said...

This is great list-making, and it doesn't cover a series of other films that apparently don't qualify because they weren't released in the US i the year they were made--a bit too chauvinistic, perhaps? I'm with Barry re Zurlini and Tarkovsky--those two films should be seen as the masterpieces they truly are (even as they point to a more expansive and personal style that each of these directors, who both left us at far too young an age, would achieve in subsequent works).

Two more from 1962 to watch, from France: Georges Franju's THERESE DESQUEYROUX, with a brilliant central performance from Emmanuelle Riva as a "Madame Bovary who bites back," and the virtually unheralded Leonard Keigel's LEVIATHAN, a searing tale of tragically misplaced (and displaced) love, with cinematography from Nicolas Hayer that dwarfs his flashier work in Melville's LE DOULOS, with an astonishingly anguished performance from Louis Jourdan (completely against the grain of his often off-putting persona) along with magnificent malevolence from Lilli Palmer, and heartbreaking work from the young Marie Laforet. These two films take up the undercurrent in French noir that began during the Occupation, a sub-genre known as the "provincial gothic," where stultifying small-town ways lead to fateful (and sometimes fatal) reckonings. The arthouse edge of these two films reminds us what type of transformation is occurring in the early 60s, and their tonalities sum up and kill off the "provincial gothic" once and for all with the forbiddingly beautiful extremity of their visual style.

Best, Don Malcolm